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ASA in The Washington Times: The Government Wants to Weaponize the Stock Market

by Christopher A. Iacovella

March 4, 2024


Every American who owns a share of stock is having their right to privacy violated by the administrative state’s latest scheme: A nationwide surveillance system called the Consolidated Audit Trail (CAT).


The U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) created the CAT in 2012 to collect, store, and surveil every American investor’s personal and financial information. It’s now operational.


The agency sidestepped Congress and ignored the Constitution in adopting the CAT because it desperately wanted to know what ordinary Americans invest in. This information opens a window into an individual’s personal, religious, and political beliefs. Knowing whether a person owns shares in a green company, a gun company, an energy company, or a bank that will or will not do business with those companies reveals a lot about the policies a person supports. Once known, a politically motivated government can use this insight to target any American whose investments don’t support the orthodoxy of those in power.


This is especially dangerous if the SEC is run by an administrative state loyalist who believes that neither the law nor our founding document should constrain the government. Sadly, this describes the current chairman, Gary Gensler. Under his direction, SEC lawyers have lied to federal courts, multiple rules have been struck down, and judges routinely disagree with the SEC’s legal positions.


The Chairman has also ordered the agency, without Congressional approval, to inject Davos-style environmental, social, and governance (ESG) elitism into our capital markets through rulemaking and shareholder proposals. Is it really a stretch to imagine that politically motivated bureaucrats might use CAT surveillance to raise a ‘red flag’ on American investors whose investments don’t comply with the ESG edicts of the ruling class?


SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce warned of this danger, calling the CAT a “direct assault on Americans’ privacy rights.”


Instead of surveilling ordinary Americans who have done nothing wrong, the agency should focus on its three-part mission of protecting investors, maintaining fair markets, and facilitating capital formation. Nowhere in its mission did Congress give the SEC the power to surveil the stock and mutual fund holdings of Americans without cause.


This devious use of regulation to learn what stocks investors own and how much money they have shows a disdain for our constitutional rights that should make every American cringe.


If the CAT becomes a political tool that bureaucrats can wield against Americans whose investments fund policies that differ from those of the ruling class elite, then the government’s power to use the portfolios of American investors against them will know no bounds.


That is extremely frightening.


The dangers of this Orwellian scheme and how it can be used are finally gaining national attention. Numerous objections have been raised by financial industry leaders, trade associations, and civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the New Civil Liberties Alliance. 


Additionally, several members of Congress, including Congressman Barry Loudermilk and Sen. John Kennedy, have supported legislation and filed legal briefs expressing outrage at the SEC over this unconstitutional policy. Last month, more than twenty (20) state attorney generals filed an amicus brief echoing these concerns.


Though Chief Justice John Roberts said, “privacy comes at a cost,” he could not have possibly imagined the government would create a nationwide database to spy on the portfolio of every American investor.


It is up to Congress and the courts to protect the constitutional rights of Americans against the tyranny of the administrative state and end the CAT surveillance scheme. If it remains, then our financial markets will become a political weapon for the ruling class to use against any American investor they disagree with.


The right of every American to be free from government intrusion has fueled years of resistance to government surveillance. It must again. The integrity of the U.S. stock market depends on it.


Christopher A. Iacovella is President and CEO of the American Securities Association.


This article originally appeared in The Washington Times.








About the American Securities Association


American Securities Association, based in Washington, DC, represents the retail and institutional capital markets interests of regional financial services firms who provide Main Street businesses with access to capital and advise hardworking Americans how to create and preserve wealth. ASA’s mission is to promote trust and confidence among investors, facilitate capital formation, and support efficient and competitively balanced capital markets. This mission advances financial independence, stimulates job creation, and increases prosperity. The ASA has a geographically diverse membership of almost one hundred members that spans the Heartland, Southwest, Southeast, Atlantic, and Pacific Northwest regions of the United States.



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